Gonzaga at No. 17 Kentucky

There was a time not long ago when a Gonzaga-Kentucky basketball game would have taken center stage on a Saturday in February.

But Gonzaga (17-6) has already lost as many games as it did all of last season and hasn’t dropped more than six games in a season since finishing 28-8 in 2015-16. The Zags even had their 26-game winning streak versus Santa Clara snapped on Jan. 11.

As a result, the Bulldogs fell out of the AP Top 25 last month for the first time in eight years – though they still sit 15th in our TRACR rankings. It’s not quite among the longest runs in the AP poll, but it’s up there.

Most Consecutive Weeks Ranked In AP Poll (Only When New Poll Released)

  • Kansas (2009-21) – 231
  • UCLA (1966-80) – 221
  • Duke (1996-2007) – 199
  • North Carolina (1972-82) – 171
  • North Carolina (1990-2000) – 171
  • Duke (2007-16) – 167
  • Marquette (1969-79) – 166
  • Kentucky (1990-99) – 163
  • Kansas (1991-99) – 144
  • Duke (1986-95) – 143
  • Gonzaga (2016-24) – 143

Gonzaga, however, has been working its way back up by winning six of seven since that loss to Santa Clara. The only setback during that span was 64-62 to West Coast Conference leader Saint Mary’s (19-6, 10-0).

Now the Bulldogs will get another chance to beat an AP Top 25 team on Saturday afternoon when they visit No. 17 Kentucky (16-6). Gonzaga dropped games to No. 2 Purdue and No. 5 UConn earlier this season.

No program has been ranked in the AP poll for as many weeks as Kentucky has throughout its illustrious history. The Wildcats, though, hope to show they’re back on track after losing three of four before a 109-77 win at Vanderbilt on Tuesday.

AP Top 25 Most Weeks ranked

Saturday’s matchup could turn out to be a fast-paced thriller, as Kentucky ranks sixth in the nation in offensive TRACR (20.37) and Gonzaga is 12th (17.75).

TRACR (Team Rating Adjusted for Conference and Roster) is a net efficiency metric that calculates a team’s points per possession on both sides of the ball, adjusted by the team it plays. The model rewards teams that do well against good teams and punishes those that do poorly against weaker squads.

The SEC is the third-best conference in the country with an average TRACR of 19.9, while the WCC ranks 10th with an average of 6.8. So it might be surprising to some that Gonzaga has a better record value than Kentucky.

Record value estimates how likely an average TRACR top-25 team would match or exceed a team’s expected record at the end of the regular season. This process can give us an indication of how strong a team’s record is.  

The Bulldogs’ record value is 65.4, meaning a top-25 team would match or exceed their projected record (21.1-7.9) about 65.4% of the time. The Wildcats have a record value of 71.4.

So they’re close and both have tough schedules, but Gonzaga is ranked 15th in TRACR and Kentucky is 26th with some questionable losses.

College basketball experts may see the Bulldogs as underdogs, but our TRACR-powered supercomputer gives them the edge with a 50.6% chance of pulling off a big road win in a matchup that has a March Madness feel.

No. 13 Baylor at No. 4 Kansas

Speaking of our conference rankings, our model has the Big 12 far and away ahead of the second-best Big Ten (19.9) with an average TRACR of 24.9.

And there’s a big conference clash on Saturday night when the Baylor Bears visit Allen Fieldhouse. Baylor (17-5, 6-3) and Kansas (18-5, 6-4) are sitting right behind No. 5 Houston (20-3, 7-3) at the top of the Big 12 standings.

The Bears have won three straight – including back-to-back wins over ranked teams (Iowa State and Texas Tech) – since suffering a three-game losing streak in January, while the Jayhawks knocked off Houston at home before falling at rival Kansas State on Monday.

Kansas should feel confident about getting back on track in Lawrence, where the team has won the last three meetings with the Bears and is 91-4 since February 2018. Baylor, though, had one of those rare wins on Jan. 11, 2020.

Behind the top two scorers in the Big 12, Kansas is ninth in offensive TRACR and 10th in our overall TRACR rankings. Kevin McCullar Jr. averages a conference-best 19.5 points, while Hunter Dickinson ranks second with 18.9 points and first with 11.1 rebounds per game.

Ja’Kobe Walter (14.2 points per game) and RayJ Dennis (13.8) lead Baylor, which ranks third in the nation in offensive TRACR. Kansas, however, should be better equipped to deal with the Bears’ prolific offense behind the nation’s 18th-best defensive TRACR.

Our supercomputer finds it difficult to go against the Jayhawks’ run of dominance at home, giving them a 68.2% win probability in this matchup of NCAA Tournament-bound teams.

Avoiding Historic Futility

There are two teams still seeking their first wins of the season – the 0-25 Detroit Titans (led by former Indiana and UAB coach Mike Davis) and 0-22 Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils.

Since 1996-97, only three teams have gone winless over the course of a D-I season. The 2020-21 Chicago State Cougars went 0-9 before suspending play due to COVID-19 and an insufficient numbers of players. The 2012-23 Grambling State Tigers and the 2004-05 Savannah State Tigers both finished 0-28.

Will this year’s Detroit and Mississippi Valley State teams join that list? Not according to our projections, which have the Titans ending up with 1.3 wins and Delta Devils with 1.5.

fewest projected wins

NCAA Basketball Predictions

Which teams are the best bets this weekend? How do our projected winners compare to sportsbooks’ college basketball picks? 

Below are our model’s win probabilities for all the AP Top 25 matchups. (The win probability is listed next to the projected winner.)

Friday, Feb. 9

  • No. 18 Dayton (61.9%) at VCU
  • No. 24 San Diego State at Nevada (63.6%)
  • San Jose State at Colorado State (98.3%)

Saturday, Feb. 10

  • No. 1 UConn (98.0%) at Georgetown
  • No. 16 Alabama (88.0%) at LSU
  • No. 11 Wisconsin (76.1%) at Rutgers
  • No. 19 Creighton at Xavier (50.6%)
  • Vanderbilt at No. 15 South Carolina (96.5%)
  • Boston College at No. 9 Duke (91.5%)
  • TCU at No. 14 Iowa State (84.9%)
  • No. 10 Illinois at Michigan State (64.7%)
  • No. 12 Auburn (72.5%) at Florida
  • No. 5 Houston (79.7%) at Cincinnati
  • Gonzaga (50.6%) at No. 17 Kentucky
  • No. 3 UNC (75.8%) at Miami (FL)
  • UCF at No. 23 Texas Tech (74.5%)
  • No. 13 Baylor at No. 4 Kansas (68.2%)
  • St. John’s at No. 7 Marquette (83.6%)
  • UNLV at No. 25 New Mexico (92.4%)
  • Indiana at No. 2 Purdue (97.1%)
  • No. 6 Tennessee (70.4%) at Texas A&M
  • Kansas State at No. 21 BYU (91.5%)
  • No. 8 Arizona (61.6%) at Colorado
  • Boise State at No. 22 Utah State (51.1%)

Sunday, Feb. 11

  • No. 20 Florida Atlantic (83.0%) at Wichita State

Chase Weight and Evan Boyd contributed to this story.

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